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VIFF Centre screens Jacky Cheung and Anita Mui in restored version of July Rhapsody

July Rhapsody
Cantopop superstar Anita Mui's final film was July Rhapsody before she died from cancer at the age of 40.

Two of Hong Kong’s most admired singers and actors—Jacky Cheung and Anita Mui—will grace the big screen at the VIFF Centre from May 17 to 23. They’re appearing in a restored 4K version of director Ann Hui’s 2002 classic, July Rhapsody.

Classic Chinese literature teacher Lam Yiu-Kwok (Cheung) and Lam Man-Ching (Mui) are a married couple with two children. Their idyllic life is disrupted when the ailing mother of Yiu-Kwok’s first child wants to reconcile before she dies. Further complicating matters, Yiu-Kwok’s student, Choy-Lam (Karena Kar-Yan Lam), confesses that she has a crush on him.

In an interview with cinemasie.com, Lam said that it was initially “pretty intimidating” working with Hui. Lam assumed that the famous director would be “really tough” and “really mean”, but Hui turned out to be free-spirited and laughed loudly on-set.

“She’s a person with a very big heart and it was really good working with her coz she gave me so much freedom,” Lam told cinemasie.com.

July Rhapsody captured 13 prizes, according to IMDb. They include 2002 Golden Horse Awards for Best Supporting Actress (Lam), Best Original Screenplay (Ivy Ho) and 2002 Hong Kong Film Awards for Best Director (Hui), Best Supporting Actress (Lam), Best New Performer (Lam), and Best Screenplay (Ho). In addition, July Rhapsody was nominated as the Best Feature Film in both competitions.

July Rhapsody
Lam Yiu-Kwok (Jacky Cheung) faces unexpected mid-life challenges in July Rhapsody.

July Rhapsody won critical acclaim

North American and Asian critics lavished praise on the film.

“Though the elements that Hui uses here are all familiar from countless other films, there’s a serenity and quiet beauty about this small but impressive film, thanks in no small degree to the beautifully shaded performances of Jacky Cheung and Anita Mui,” wrote Variety’s David Stratton.

Cheung is a Hong Kong entertainment giant. Nicknamed the “God of Songs”, he won a World Music Award in 1996 as best-selling Asian artist. The Cantopop icon has sold more albums in Taiwan and Hong Kong than anyone else.

A young Karena Kar-Yan Lam won Golden Horse and Hong Kong Film Awards for her performance in the film.

Mui also enjoyed stunning success as a Cantopop singer. Moreover, she earned the nickname “Madonna of the East” as a result of her high-octane live performances and wild costumes. Sadly, Mui died at the age of 40 after developing cervical cancer. July Rhapsody was her final movie.

Meanwhile, the Vancouver-born Lam launched her film career in 1996 with the thriller Sing Kei Lok Yeuk Kui. After July Rhapsody, she was nominated for five Hong Kong Film Awards for Best Actress in subsequent years and won a Golden Horse Award for Best Actress in 2015 for Zinnia Flower. Lam also received a nomination for Best Actress for her performance in the 2021 film American Girl.

Watch the trailer for July Rhapsody.

The VIFF Centre will screen Ann Hui’s July Rhapsody at 7 p.m. on May 17, 3 p.m. on May 18, 1:45 p.m. on May 19, 6:20 p.m. on May 20, 7:50 p.m. on May 21, and 7:45 p.m. on May 23. For tickets and more information, visit the VIFF Centre website.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.